Consequences of compulsive gambling can’t be laughed off

Sunday, October 20, 2013
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Consequences of compulsive gambling can’t be laughed off

When I was a senior at Vestal High School, a few friends and I decided to go on a road trip to the Atlantic City casinos. In the 1980s, the East Coast casinos were all the rage. The allure of an exciting adventure by a group of boys just turned 18 seems irresistible. Who wouldn’t enjoy the glamor and glitz of going to a newly opened casino? We were going to be adults!

We were excited that we could play the slots, blackjack and craps with the few dollars we had. When we arrived at the Playboy casino (of course), games were on different floors. We hurriedly went between the floors to play our favorite games, our luck was going to hit. As impatient young adults, we couldn’t wait for the elevator and took a stairwell to our next adventure.

As we ran down the stairs, we almost tripped over a middle-aged man sitting between floors. He was crying. I couldn’t tell his age exactly because his face was buried in his hands, but you could not miss the loud wails of anguish echoing off the barren concrete walls. I stopped momentarily, wondering if anything was wrong, but then kept on going, not wanting to be separated from my friends. But I knew what was wrong; we were in a casino.

My heart stopped as I thought: How much did it take for this man to cry? Was it a car payment, a mortgage payment, perhaps some savings? Could it be a life’s savings? How much was that? I had a few dollars, but how much had this man earned and saved and lost, only to be left crying in a stairwell?

If I had lost what I took that day, I would be upset. How much losing would it take for me to cry? I didn’t want to find out. Ever since, gambling has taken on a different meaning to me. I grew up a little during this road trip, understanding there are consequences if the glitz and glamor are left uninhibited.

I now rarely go to a casino unless it is part of a destination trip, vacation or social event. I have worked too long and hard to have it all lost, I don’t want to be left crying in a stairwell.

I just hope New York will vote no on the casinos proposed for the state. I don’t want to see another adult cry.

Ed Leighton


Parents, teachers have stake in Common Core

Thank you for your Oct. 13 article about our state education commissioner’s decision to cancel his visit to the Shenendehowa Central School District and three other meetings sponsored by the state PTA all because parents and educators expressed concerns to him about the Common Core at a town hall meeting in Poughkeepsie.

Apparently the audience, which was described as “hostile” in the article, did not agree with the direction the commissioner is leading our schools.

It is not clear what the commissioner meant when he blamed “special interest groups” for denying parents “the opportunity to listen, ask questions and offer comments,” since it was parents and teachers who were in the audience expressing their concerns.

When did parents and teachers, who are focused on the success of students, become the problem? And just what is the problem with those groups expressing displeasure over an educational system that appears to be guided more by politicians and testing companies than by professional educators?

I am also concerned that the commissioner’s response to dealing with an audience opposed to his views was to cancel all upcoming scheduled meetings. I wonder how he would feel if teachers with difficult classes could simply cancel those classes rather than work through the issues.

I truly hope Shenendehowa and other school districts will have the wisdom and courage to allow the dialogue to continue, with or without the commissioner. The focus needs to be on what is best for students, not what is best for politicians and corporations.

Bruce Ballan


The writer is a retired middle school principal.

Progress on Domestic violence still needed

This month, Saratoga County has joined other communities across New York and the country in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Domestic Violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by a family member or an intimate partner against another member of the family. It is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background.

Violence against women is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior, and thus is part of a systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence results in physical injury, psychological trauma and, episodically, death. The consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and last a lifetime.

One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime; a staggering 1.3 million every year. Women between the ages of 20 and 24 are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence. However, women are not alone: 15 percent of all domestic violence victims are men. Additionally, children who witness violence between one’s parents or caretakers [are at greatest risk for] transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next.

Along with the victims of domestic violence, the community suffers as well. Costs associated with domestic violence exceeded $5.8 billion last year.

The Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office continues to work closely with local groups, such as the Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga County, and the Mechanicville Domestic Violence Advocacy Program. Both organizations offer services for children, counseling and support. Additionally, my office has crime victim specialists who provide valuable information and assistance to victims of domestic crime as their batterers are prosecuted. Also, we have two assistant district attorneys assigned specifically to prosecute domestic violence cases in county court, and in the three local courts specifically designated as domestic violence courts, namely Saratoga Springs, Mechanicville and Clifton Park.

New York state has been diligent in the fight against domestic violence. New York is currently the only state to have an executive-level agency, the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV), dedicated solely to the issue of domestic violence. OPDV recently redesigned the training modules for law enforcement to better equip them with the tools and resources necessary to combat this epidemic. The revitalized training includes a mandatory arrest policy, so the batterer is removed.

While previous campaigns to “shine the light on domestic violence” have made considerable gains in the prevention of domestic violence, our work is never done. Only a continued, coordinated, community effort that balances the safety of victims and holds offenders accountable can one day end domestic violence.

Join with me and spread the message that domestic violence will not be tolerated by joining the fight this October to make every home a safe home.

For more information, please visit our website at

James A. Murphy III

Ballston Spa

The writer is the Saratoga County district attorney.

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October 19, 2013
7:32 a.m.
wmarincic says...

Ed Leighton a great letter, gambling is the sane thing as doing drugs, in the beginning you start out to have a little fun and sooner or later you end up full blown addicts. Casino's are like opium dens.

October 19, 2013
7:36 a.m.
MMRMIKE68 says...

Ed, u saw one man crying on the stairs in a casino filled with thousands of adults laughing and having a good time, and aiding the economy; one man..............m

October 19, 2013
9:20 a.m.
ronzo says...

Ed: And if you've ever visited the Saratoga Racino, you'd observe a bunch of blue hair people, all with angry looks on their faces, pumping their Social Security checks into the slot machines. If they call that fun, I can only imagine what their excitement might be to plop down their entire SS check on a poker table, then go home and complain that they have to eat dog food, after they've applied for government assistance that the taxpayers are stuck paying for the results of their "fun".

October 19, 2013
11:37 a.m.
wmarincic says...

MMRMIKE68 if a person is blowing their disposable or not so disposable income on gambling rather than purchasing products and services, how is that helping the economy. I just came back from a meeting in Vegas, I did not see very many happy people gambling.

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